01/05/2006 12:00AM

Brass Hat pride of the Bradley family business

Jim Linscott
Buff Bradley (right) and his father, Fred F. Bradley, flank a victorious Brass Hat.

BOSSIER CITY, La. - Trainer William "Buff" Bradley might not be a familiar name to those who follow racing in Louisiana, but he has strong ties to the state and on Saturday will start the co-highweight in one of Louisiana's richest races, the Grade 2, $400,000 New Orleans Handicap.

Bradley is a former assistant to the late trainer Clarence Picou, and was part of the stable's team when Free Spirit's Joy, a Louisiana-bred, posted a $59 upset in the 1991 Super Derby. Fast-forward to the present day, and Bradley has developed a major stakes winner of his own in Brass Hat.

"This is where I started, at Louisiana Downs," said Bradley, 42.

A native of Frankfurt, Ky., Bradley and his 73-year-old father, Fred F. Bradley, a former Kentucky state senator, bred and raised Brass Hat. He is the pride of the family's 300-acre Indian Ridge Farm, which was founded in the 1960's.

In two seasons of racing, Brass Hat, 5, has risen from a $15,000 maiden claiming race in his debut to becoming a multiple Grade 2 stakes winner. He won his maiden in the $100,000 Rushaway at Turfway Park in March 2004.

That same year Brass Hat won the Ohio and Indiana derbies, and overall he has won 4 of 11 starts and $655,730.

"It's fun watching something that you raised," said Buff Bradley. "It's probably a little more rewarding than even buying one at the sale. We planned the mating. We took care of the mare and then foaled her out, foaled Brass Hat. Of course you don't know what you have, but you're always hoping that you have that one that's going to be a special horse like he is.

"That's what keeps you in this game, the dream of getting a horse like this."

Indian Ridge Farm has bred a handful of stakes winners, but the best horse to come off the farm is Brass Hat. The Bradleys have 12 broodmares, and Brassy, who was purchased for $5,000, produced Brass Hat on a breeding to Prized, who stands for $3,500.

Brassy has since been sold, but one of her daughters, a sister to Brass Hat, is part of the Bradley operation and is in foal to Brahms.

Buff Bradley operates an 18-horse public stable at Turfway Park, with about half of the horses in his care owned by his father outright or in partnerships. Brass Hat has been on the comeback trail for the barn since sustaining a condylar fracture to his right front ankle in the Grade 3 Lone Star Derby in October 2004.

In his first start back from a layoff of more than one year, he finished seventh of 10 in an optional claiming turf allowance at Churchill Downs in November 2005. In his most recent start, Brass Hat won the $50,000 Prairie Bayou at Turfway Park on Dec. 17, and he should move forward off that race on Saturday, said Buff Bradley.

Allowances part of strong card

Jonesboro will make his comeback from a layoff of more than eight months on Saturday in the fifth race. A six-furlong optional claimer, the race is one of three allowances on the 11-race New Orleans Handicap card, which also includes the $75,000 Red Camelia, topped by Our Love, and the $60,000 Pan Zareta, an overnight stakes led by Grade 2 winner Josh's Madelyn.

Jonesboro has not raced since April 16, when he won the $75,000 Northern Spur Breeders' Cup on the Arkansas Derby undercard at Oaklawn. He is a son of Mom's Command, the champion 3-year-old filly of 1985. Trainer Randy Morse has given the mount to Calvin Borel.

In the seventh race, Steppenwolfer, a 3-year-old colt by Aptitude, should go favored in an entry-level allowance run over 1 1/16 miles. Threats include Anchor Steam, Casino Evil, and Prayerandasong.

The other allowance is the first, when Louisiana-bred fillies and mares meet at six furlongs for a purse of $52,200.

* Taylor's Day, a career winner of 28 races, will make his 12-year-old debut in the 11th, a six-furlong race that carries a claiming price of $7,500.